This paper discusses the debate over whether emotional expressions are spontaneous or intentional actions. We describe a variety of empirical evidence supporting these two possibilities. But we argue that the spontaneous-intentional distinction fails to explain the psychological dynamics of emotional expressions. We claim that a complex systems perspective on intentions, as self-organized critical states, may yield a unified view of emotional expressions as a consequence of situated action. This account simultaneously acknowledges the embodied status of environment, evolution, culture and mind in theories of emotion.